It seems that there is a growing tendency for ‘collaboration’ to be seen as the answer to any tricky issue, particularly if there are questions or pushback from those affected.

But that often just deepens the dilemma, by creating expectation that probably can’t be met ie that the decision can be influenced by others.

A couple of years ago we came across a really nice decision-making framework that has been particularly useful in helping clients with this question.

It was developed by Adam Kahane, and outlined in his book “Collaborating with the Enemy” (Berret-Koehler, 2018)

In the framework, Adam suggests that when faced with a difficult situation, one can respond in 4 ways- collaborating, forcing, adapting or exiting-

He suggests that one should choose to collaborate only when it is the best way to achieve the objectives. So this means collaboration is appropriate when adapting or exiting are hard to swallow, and forcing is impossible because one can only succeed by solving with others (multilaterally).

Adam also notes that the choices can be situation and time dependent, and one may move between the choices (for example between collaborate and force) over time or as circumstances change.

In our experience, decision makers are quite relieved that it’s OK to “force it” and retain their unilateral control.

However, we reckon that it’s a bit more complicated, with the unilateral choice labeled “force it” likely encompassing a spectrum of choices around the degree of engagement.

For instance, it could be just imposing a unilateral decision, but it could just as likely be inviting stakeholders into the process, while still retaining the right to make the final decision.

The distinction from the multilateral collaboration choice is retaining the power around the decision.

Our growing experience is that by recognising that it’s OK to “force it” when appropriate, the multilateral collaborative efforts tend to be more genuine and successful.


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